Feeding the Celebration Monster

The celebration monster likes people to perspire for her and to tremble with cold for her, and that's why the freezing Jerusalem nights were chosen for the holding of official ceremonies.

Late on Sunday afternoon, while I was waiting among the usual crowd of elderly people, blacks and Filipinas for bus no. 47 to Ra'anana, I discovered that I had been misinformed. After all, today was Earth Day! A day of fresh air, free of fumes from buses, from the noise of traffic jams. And in fact, the police had closed Ibn Gvirol Street to traffic, moving the traffic jams to another place not visible from the platforms of Rabin Square. As a representative of the confused crowd waiting at the bus stop, I approached a group of policemen who were blocking the intersection, in order to ask about our bus. But they all, coincidentally or not, spoke only Russian. In Hebrew they were only able to stammer that they didn't know. As in Russia, the questions of the ordinary citizen were of no interest whatsoever to them.

We gathered our strength - the elderly, the Filipinas and the blacks - and began to march under my leadership - for a moment I was Moses, bringing the people out of Egypt - in the direction of Namir Road, where the traffic was moving slowly, but at least it was moving. We boarded the bus to Ra'anana and the trip went smoothly, until Herzliya. There I discovered that once again that I had been misinformed. After all, yesterday, Shabbat, had been the 29th day of Nisan, the day when some great rebbe had ascended to heaven (or was it his birthday? ). The police had stopped traffic because Hasidim were marching in a parade, escorting a Torah scroll into the synagogue adjacent to the Central Bus Station intersection.

Illustration by Eran Wolkowski.

Here, like the old servant at the end of Chekhov's "Cherry Orchard," with senile despair I will city the famous sentence that remains forever true: "One has been left behind!" Because again, on the threshold of the 64th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, I learned that this state does not belong to the young, as people tend to say, and certainly not to the elderly. Instead, it increasingly belongs to impresarios of projects, ceremonies, rituals and endless celebrations, which are ostensibly conducted in order to gladden our hearts - those of the people. But in fact they don't gladden anyone's heart, except for that abstract creature: the celebration itself.

In order to satisfy the hunger of the celebration monster, an innocent young woman was killed a few days ago on Mount Herzl, when a stage lighting rig collapsed and buried her beneath it, as well as injuring about half a dozen others. Would it be considered an annoyance if I wonder in the name of my country: "Why?" Tell me, my country, that I'm a party pooper. But who, who enjoys those celebrations and ceremonies? Even the technicians who organize them are now risking a trial and imprisonment. When will they learn?

Unfortunately, I can't lie and say that once upon a time, when I was young, it was better. No, because always, from the dawn of the birth of this state - which is marching toward retirement age, while I stumble behind it, for lack of choice, at a five-year delay - we have been dominated by the monster of ceremonies and celebrations. I well remember Rabin Square when it was still a dirt crater and, on the eve of Independence Day, members of the youth movements made bonfires and danced there. Others, meanwhile, watched what was happening on a wooden stage where an entertainer tried to shout jokes in a Yemenite accent. My parents, who were strolling along Ibn Gvirol Street with us children, plus our grandmothers and a relative who was visiting from Istanbul, told me: "Why don't you join the circle and dance the hora?" I shrugged my shoulders in embarrassment. Dad got angry at me. With all his might he wanted for me to be "like everyone else." I didn't want to. But only now do I understand why.

The celebration monster likes people to perspire for her and to tremble with cold for her, and that's why the freezing Jerusalem nights were chosen for the holding of official ceremonies. And, in the same way, dusty and burning-hot hamsin days were chosen to conduct memorial services for the fallen of the Israel Defense Forces, demonstrations in favor of government support of Holocaust survivors, and victims of colon cancer. And because we have become accustomed to enjoying the suffering at ceremonies, it no longer seems strange that people chose to hold last year's large encampment protest in Tel Aviv at the height of summer - another celebration whose main achievement was the celebration itself and the "bonding" it created among people.

Bonding: Another monstrous concept that portrays me, the individual, as obligated to adhere, like a grain of cooked rice, with the help of the liquids excreted by the bodies of the individuals around me, to the great togetherness. And all to the accompaniment of huge and blinding spotlights, and gargantuan loudspeakers hanging on cables from stages that are liable to collapse on us at any moment and turn us into a rice pudding - for ceremonies to be called "Earth Day," or alternatively "the rebbe's birthday," or "the people demand social justice" or simply "the main ceremony on the eve of Independence Day on Mount Herzl."

What came first, people's natural urge to stick together, or the celebration monster that has brainwashed us into believing we enjoy this stickiness and that it can be of some use? At our advanced age, we have become tired - the state and I - of delving into what is beyond us. And all I can do, as then, when I was a child, is shrug my shoulders and keep my distance. And to march forward from there with my small group of disciples, which includes several elderly people, Filipinas and black refugees, and to allow all the stages and all the projectors and project managers to collapse beneath themselves without us. And the state, oh, you who are sitting on the sidelines, come, please come with me before it's too late.